New Research Combats Linear and Rotational Forces with Contact Athletic Helmets

Hits to the head can cause traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Such hits are extremely common in many contact sports, including football, placing the risks involved in play under close scrutiny in recent years.

Not many think about the consequences of head injuries on the field. Many are more interested in who was tackled and what the score is, even if there was headbutting along the way. Unfortunately, this lack of concern extends to current equipment design: football helmets are not sufficiently constructed to prevent traumatic brain injuries.

Currently, TBI occurs 1.7 million times per year in the U.S., and roughly 20 percent of cases are the direct result of athletic activity. Many of these head injuries also include concussions, a precursor to long-term brain damage. Thankfully, researchers are now examining standards for a better, safer helmet — one that can withstand both linear and rotational force, the two types of dynamic forces players experience during a football game.

Existing football helmets are designed to withstand linear force, but they neglect the impact rotational force can have. Linear hits are direct, centered, frontal hits that push the head straight backwards. Helmets can blunt linear force effects to a certain extent, but they do not accommodate for rotational hits, known to cause about 40 percent of today’s sporting head injuries.

Rotational hits happen because of the round shape of a helmet. Some frontal hits bounce off the helmet’s crown. Typically, those hits slide to the side with a shearing motion, shaking the brain in the process. This phenomenon may even occur after low-impact hits. A combination of these two types of hits can cause serious head injuries and long-term cognitive problems.

Researchers in Florida are hoping to create a helmet that offers two kinds of protective chambers to cushion the skull and help the brain remain stable when hit. The proposed design layers non-Newtonian and Newtonian fluids. Non-Newtonian fluids are typically gels. Newtonian fluids include air and water. Ideally, the two layers would work together to offer protective padding and to reduce impacts to the head by absorbing the energy of a hit and distributing it evenly across the helmet’s surface.

It’s a unique concept. One layer receives the force of a hit, which compresses the fluid in that layer. Because of that layer’s compression, the fluid expands through a tube to the next layer, which acts to neutralize the force. Once pressure is removed, the protective chambers rebound to their original states (meaning, among other things, that the helmets could be used repeatedly). The new design is effective in the lab, but wider testing needs to be performed in partnership with companies interested in producing the helmets.

These helmets may also have applications for athletes in other sports, firefighters, construction workers, motorcyclists, cyclists, skateboarders and soldiers. They should be as effective for children as for adults. The protective layers are designed to be inexpensive, and they may be produced to retrofit existing helmets.

These safety developments are exciting, especially when one considers that in 2013, NFL penalty statistics reveal that each football player sustained at least one illegal hit to the neck or head in virtually every game.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Alleges That Police Shot Handcuffed Suspect in Chest

Allegedly, Brooklyn police shot and killed a handcuffed man in August 2013. A grand jury has declined to file charges against the police officer who allegedly shot the man, but his mother has now filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
At the time the 24-year-old man was shot, he was wanted by police for kidnapping. The suspect was halted at a traffic stop and placed under arrest before he was shot in the chest. The details of this case are hotly disputed, and the wrongful death lawsuit will be heading to court within the year.

The defendant’s attorney has suggested that the man tried to fight off two officers during arrest. During the course of that struggle, he allegedly took possession of one of their Tasers and attempted to take a firearm. The man was facing more than six possible years in prison for kidnapping and was actively resisting arrest; according to the defense, police acted within their scope of authority to protect themselves from a perceived life-threatening attack.

The plaintiff, the man’s mother, does not believe that her son resisted arrest inappropriately. The plaintiff’s case rests on that the alleged fact that the man was handcuffed when he was shot in the chest (a fact which would belie the police’s statement that he was attacking both officers). The plaintiff’s lawyer further claims that defense’s argument is not credible. According to the plaintiff, four other individuals were in the man’s car when he was asked to pull over for the traffic stop and witnessed the ensuing events, but oddly, none of them were called to give testimony before the grand jury that dismissed the criminal charges.

The defense has indicated that a dash cam video of the incident is available, but the dead man’s family has not seen it. It is logged in as evidence to be presented at the wrongful death trial.

This is a very complex wrongful death lawsuit, and it will take time to be resolved. With or without criminal charges, questions about the incident that took a man’s life remain. If you have been in a situation like this, reach out and consult with an experienced wrongful death lawyer. You need to know what options are open to you, what the evidence reveals, how it may be interpreted and how a court may view it.

Posted on: March 14, 2014 | Tagged

Negligence on Texas Worksite Leads to Severe Leg Injury

Those who let their attention slip on the jobv may inadvertently contribute to serious injuries or deaths.
Texas worksites are active accidents looking for a place to happen. Workers could easily suffer serious injuries if their coworkers are not following proper safety protocol. All it takes is a moment of inattention.

Edward Acclis, Jr. is employed by Newpark Resources Incorporated in Texas. In August 2013, he was involved in a workplace accident. While on the Texas Industrial Box Company and Transportation worksite, a trucker, backing his rig up to the loading docks, pinned Acclis’ legs up against the dock. The trucker, Edward Shaw, apparently did not see Acclis as he maneuvered the vehicle.

Evidence of negligence is central to a personal injury lawsuit of this nature. In this suit, the statement of claim has suggested that the truck driver, Shaw, was negligent in his work duties: he did not pay attention to his surroundings, and, in doing so, failed to maintain proper caution. The lawsuit seeks damages of up to $200,000.

Shaw’s distracted driving may have seriously injured Acclis, but such cases are not always clear-cut. Acclis himself may have played a part, failing to maintain the proper caution in watching for the truck. Given the circumstances, the court may find that Acclis played a contributory role in his accident, and any award may be reduced accordingly.

If the court finds that he was 10 percent responsible for his accident and that the trucker was 90 percent responsible, the trucker will pay 90 percent of the total award. Acclis would then pay 10 percent in return (or, more accurately, his compensation would be reduced by 10 percent).

Perlmutter and Schuelke actually handled a very similar case several years ago. In our tragic case, the trucker backed up toward the loading dock and crushed a worker on it, killing him. We were able to show that the truck did not have required safety features that were designed to prevent this type of accident. The case quickly settled after our expert provided a deposition explaining everything that the trucking company did wrong.

Texas workplace injury law is complex. Depending on the details of the case, a worker may pursue a variety of options. Do not guess what they may be. Only a competent Austin injury lawyer ia able to get you the compensation you deserve.

Posted on: January 31, 2014 | Tagged

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE FOUR: Looking Solely To Price And Not Knowing What You Are Buying

You see or hear many insurance companies saying that you can save money simply by switching insurance coverages.  But prospective buyers shouldn’t just look at the price.

Usually, the price is lower because you’re not comparing the same products.  The new insurance company may be offering lower limits, not selling you the same coverages, or excluding drivers who you may need covered.

You certainly don’t want to spend more than you have to, but you need to make sure you understand why the price differences exist.

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE TWO: Not Protecting You and Your Family

Many people who purchase insurance only purchase the liability insurance required by law.  As a result, you spend a lot of money on this insurance protecting other people.

But you are making a mistake if you’re not protecting your family through the purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and personal injury protection insurance.

On an almost monthly basis, I have to break bad news to potential clients that there isn’t anything I can do to help them because the driver who caused the wreck either didn’t have any insurance or didn’t have enough insurance.

Uninsureed/underinsured motorist coverage is relatively inexpensive and provide significant protection to you and your family.

The same may be said for personal injury protection insurance.  This coverage is relatively inexpensive, but it can provide big benefits to you.  If you’re in a wreck and have to make a claim against the other driver or even your own uninsured/underinsured motorist carrier, those claims take a long time.  It may be months (or even years) before the case is resolved and you see anything from the case.  PIP allows you to obtain funds almost immediately, to help pay for your medical expenses or to help with other living expenses.

Don’t make this mistake.  Buy the coverages necessary to protect you and your family.

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE ONE: Purchasing Minimum Insurance

Most people think they only need to purchase the minimum insurance required by Texas law.  This is a huge mistake.

Generally, the more assets you have, the higher insurance you should purchase to make sure you’re protecting you and your assets.  But most people should consider purchasing significantly more than the minimum limits.

For property damage, the minimum required by the law is $25,000.00.  But today, the average new car costs over $30,000.00, and the prices go much higher than that.  If you are just purchasing the minimum limits, you are still leaving yourself exposed to significant liability should something happen.

Similarly, for personal injury claims, the minimum coverage is $30,000.00.  That might sound like a lot.  But when considering the cost of health care, that’s a small amount.  Whether you’re talking about liability insurance, protecting you against someone else’s claim, or uninsured/underinsured, protecting you and your family, a simple hospital visit might exceed that cost.  In that instance, by purchasing the minimum limits, you will have done a good job protecting the hospital or your health insurance company, but you won’t have done a good job protecting yourself.

People’s situations differ, but I generally recommend people purchase at least $100,000/$300,000 for personal injury claims and $50,000 for property damage claims for both liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.  However, many people will be in a position where I’ll recommend much higher amounts.

Serious Personal Injury May Happen While Texting And Walking

No doubt you have seen the video of the woman texting and falling into a fountain at a shopping mall. While the video was funny and no one was serioiusly hurt, the ramifications for texting and walking have the potential to be fatal.

It used to be that everyone got to where they were going by just walking there. If they had anything to say to the person when they arrived, that was when the conversation took place. Cell phones had not yet been invented, and no one seemed to miss being out of touch with others. It was just the way life was back then. Now, with the advent of cell phones that do just about everything, staying in touch is not only easy, it may also kill.

Many people do not see the harm in texting while walking. After all, they are safe on the sidewalk, mall or wherever they happen to be headed. But, are they? Consider the case of the young teen who was texting her boyfriend about their planned date, when she walked out between two parked cars, right into the path of an 18-wheeler. The cell phone survived the impact. The young girl did not. Was her life worth texting dangerously?

What about the case of the young man who was walking down the stairs at work and texting his buddy about their weekend plans? Because he was not paying attention to where he was walking, he missed the last two steps, fell hard and hit his head on a cement floor. His cell phone survived the impact. He sustained traumatic brain injury. Was his forever altered life worth texting dangerously?

If you do not think texting and walking is a big deal, because maybe, nothing has ever happened to you, consider the emergency room statistics across the U.S. that show over 1,000 pedestrians have needed emergency medical care because of texting and walking accidents. Each year, the numbers go up, not down. While texting and walking is not a smart thing to do, texting and driving is markedly worse, as you can kill someone else by negligently not paying attention to the road. Be smart and above all, be safe.

Brooks Schuelke is an Austin personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke LLP. Contact an Austin injury lawyer at or (512) 476-4944.

Sudden Conflagration of Car Results in Wrongful Death of Texas Woman

Two families filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Mitsubishi, Smylie Unlimited and Meineke Car Care Centers after a woman burned to death in a car that suddenly went up in flames.

Jessica Fertitta was leaving her grandparent’s home early in the morning and stopped at an intersection about a half block from their home. Suddenly, her car was ablaze. The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that the young woman’s 2001 Mitsubishi Montero inexplicably malfunctioned, causing a fire that engulfed the vehicle and resulted in her death in February of 2011. The suit seeks damages from the court for the conscious pain and suffering Fertitta experienced prior to her death, for funeral and burial costs, for mental anguish and for the loss of her companionship and society.

On-scene accident investigators suspected that the fire was accidental and that it may have been caused by a mechanical malfunction. The lawsuit asserts that Mitsubishi was responsible for the grossly negligent design and manufacturing of the flawed vehicle. The other two defendants, Smylie and Meinke, were allegedly negligent in inspecting and repairing the car, and were thus in breach of warranty.

The case is founded upon two arguments: that Fertitta’s Montero was somehow defective as a result of shoddy design and manufacturing by Mitsubishi, and that the two car care companies who serviced and inspected the defective vehicle did so negligently and in a manner that resulted in Fertitta’s death. The case will turn upon the existence of such a design flaw (or the lack thereof). It is likely that the case faces a long process before resolution in court.

Such a case involves important technical components. It will concern the inner workings of various automobiles, the way in which multiple parts are serviced and inspected and the factors technicians consider when they service a vehicle. If there is a flaw in the design of the car, a technician may not have been aware of it or may not have seen it while performing maintenance. Should there be a flaw, it may have been unknown to Mitsubishi until some unexplained event, such as this mysterious fire, triggered inquiry. An injury attorney must ensure that all avenues of explanation are probed as he or she seeks justice — and a fair and equitable outcome — for the family.

Posted on: December 31, 2013 | Tagged

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Involving Dimethylamylamine (DMAA or Jack3d) Moves to El Paso, Texas

The wrongful death trial for a 22-year-old solider has been moved from California to Texas, closer to the lab that produces a supplement at the center of a storm of controversy.
The producers and distributors of a non-prescription supplement known as “Jack3d” (also referred to as DMAA or dimethylamylamine) have been implicated in a wrongful death suit.

Michael Sparling was training at Fort Bliss in 2011. He collapsed during a training exercise and died of a cardiac arrest. At the time, he was taking DMAA as part of his personal routine. His parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit stating that the USPlabs supplement was the cause of his sudden, unexpected death. The case was transferred to a jurisdiction in which the applicable state law would apply. In this instance, the case has been moved to Texas, even though Sparling started taking the supplement while he was in Sacramento, California. He died in Texas while still consuming the questionable product.

It is expected the defendants will argue that the young soldier’s death was the result of a training exercise or previously unknown or undiagnosed medical condition, or that Sparling died due to his own reckless, careless behavior by taking the supplement negligently and without fully vetting the product.

USPlabs LLC (the producer of the supplement) and GNC Corporations (the distributor of the supplement) are named defendants in the lawsuit, as are both operating officers of the laboratory being sued and Natural Alternatives International Inc. (Natural Alternatives granted their patent rights to another company for the component CarnoSyn (or beta-alanine), which is found in Jack3d). USPlabs has stated that the plaintiff’s contention — that the company negligently ignored the dangers of the supplement outlined in two published studies — does not make sense, since neither study was published until after Sparling’s death (they were released in 2011 and 2012, respectively).

However, if the results of those studies show that the supplement is dangerous, their date of publication will not matter in court. DMAA is rated as a stimulant with links to more than 100 illnesses and at least six deaths. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet concluded whether or not Jack3d contributed to the fatalities, although it has issued a warning that the supplement could dangerously elevate blood pressure and even cause a heart attack.

Prior to this lawsuit, four other servicemen’s deaths have been attributed to the use of Jack3d, at least initially. In all four cases, the supplement was ruled out by a U.S. Army and Department of Defense (DOD) safety review panel. The panel did state, however, that it was of the opinion that some personnel may be predisposed to serious consequences while using this supplement.

So, does this case have a chance at success? Providing that the jury attaches probative value and significance to the studies that indicate it to be dangerous, and to the observations on possible adverse effects made by the DOD, yes: the young soldier’s parents may well succeed in court. Trials like this one are often long and complex affairs, but it is the attorney’s job to meet the challenge and to fight for an equitable verdict.

Holiday Safety Tips

  Today, I received an email from the Dallas District Attorney (I don’t know how I ended up on his mailing list), setting out some holiday safety tips.  They sounded like good tips so I thought I’d pass them on to you.

  • Do not announce publicly on social media that you’re about to go on this big getaway vacation with your family. You never know who’s lurking at the other end of your profile. One minute you’re on a cruise, the next minute a thief will probably break into your home.
  • If you are traveling for an extended period of time during the holidays, advise your neighbor. Advise your relatives. Make sure that someone is keeping a watchful eye on your property.
  • Make your home appear occupied. Attach timers to lights and television sets and set them to turn on and off at different times.
  • When parking your vehicle to go shopping, remember where you parked it! Always park in a well lit and well traveled area. Do not park in a remote dark area.
  • When storing items purchased at the stores, place them out of sight. The best place is in a locked trunk.
  • Don’t resist if someone tries to take any of your belongings. Don’t chase someone who robs you, they may have a weapon. Instead call 911.
  • December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. In December, 11% of home candle fires began with decorations compared to 4% the rest of the year. Keep a diligent eye on fire hazards.
  • Falling to the ground hurt. Falling from a ladder is painful and can even be deadly. When putting up Christmas decorations be sure to have a partner to assist you for event he simplest task.
  • Don’t openly display your Christmas tree and gifts in the front window so it’s easily visible from the street. It’s too tempting for a potential criminal to smash the window and grab the wrapped packages. Or plan a later break-in based on their earlier observation.
  • Burglars know to look for the hidden door key near the front entrance. Don’t hide spare keys under rocks, in flowerpots, or above door ledges. Instead give the spare key to a trusted neighbor.

Follow this advice, and have a happy holiday.

Posted on: December 2, 2013 |

Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke

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